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Panpa Bulletin : July 2006
40 | PANPA BULLETIN July 2006 There is more to meeting challenges of the electronic era than simply putting newspapers online, says the New Zealand Press Council. The Council, in an article ti- tled The Media in a Globalising World in its annual report says the internet and onrushing technol- ogy have issues going further than pursuit of the advertising dollar. To many people it already seems quaint, in the age of the internet, to fell forests to produce paper on which to print the news, which must be delivered door-to- door at great expense, when so much news and commentary are available at the click of the mouse, the article said. Declining readership and circu- lation is one of the consequences of wider use of electronics for communications, news and en- tertainment. In the face of the new pressures there is a trend for ownership of newspapers and other media to consolidate. In New Zealand the two dominant newspaper chains have resisted the temptation to harmonise edi- torial policy, but that is clearly a danger, according to the Council's article. Elsewhere, in very different cir- cumstances the consolidation of a company like the Tribune Com- pany of Chicago sees that com- pany own newspapers, television stations, a baseball club, a quarter of the Warner Brothers network, a regional sports network and a tel- evision entertainment division. Managerial decisions in such a wide-ranging enterprise will not necessarily be driven by the same priorities as editors on the print side of the business might wish, said the Council article. Corporate pressures to achieve greater efficiencies and savings will impact on the resources avail- able for the collection and dis- semination of the news. The new environment for news organisations generally impinges not just on the means for deliver- ing advertising, but on the capac- ity to cover the news, report on the issues and formulate editorial policy, said the Council. "The dangers inherent in an outright clash of interest between the economic imperatives and the social/political role of news- papers are obvious," the Council said. "It is dispiriting to journalists -- as it is to staff in any other organi- sation exposed to the pressures of globalisation - to be subjected to constant demands for cuts or for greater efficiency. "Workloads increase and com- mitment to the profession is weakened. Journalists see their role and that of newspapers in general as being to inform their constituencies about the world and the issues of the day. "Any falling away -- from what- ever cause -- in the quality of the news and information they provide their readers will have a profound effect on the successful functioning not only of the news- paper itself, but on wider society." As an independent and au- thoritative source of news and opinion, newspapers still have a continuing and vital role to play in a democratic community. Yet, said the Council, it is clear that adaptability and the readi- ness to embrace new ways of do- ing things will be the keys to suc- cess in the electronic age. The future will be bleak and chaotic if the internet age ushers in any diminution of the role of a free press in the promotion of the widest possible community inter- ests said the Council. "The internet is a powerful and useful tool that is bringing in great change in the media world. "Yet there is nothing in the new environment that dimin- ishes the importance to society of a free press, freely reporting the 'news' according to its own values and what it perceives to be the wider interests of readers. Quite the reverse." Warren Page looks at merging advertising and news on the internet in new Zealand Online news is the next big challenge The dangers inherent in an outright clash of interest between the economic imperatives and the social/political role of newspapers are obvious. new Zealand’s Press Council investigates the competitive culture of newsrooms following an investigation into story fabrication writes Warren Page A recent case of a reporter mak- ing up stories that were published raises questions about newsroom cultures and extreme competitive- ness, according to the New Zea- land Press Council. The Council's annual report - What has been learned from John Manukia - was commenting on the fabrication of stories by Herald on Sunday experienced reporter John Manukia (see PANPA Bulletin November-December 2005 issue). The same article also praises New Zealand's two major newspa- per publishers, APN New Zealand, and Fairfax New Zealand, which had employed Manukia, for their prompt investigations and public announcements in response to finding out about Manukia's fab- rications. A pillar of a successful news- gathering operation has to be that journalists are honest and have integrity, said the Council's article. Readers have to know that what they read can be relied upon. "The reporter himself has said very little, but those found guilty of fabrication overseas have some- times claimed work pressure drove them to it," the Council said. "This is an unacceptable argu- ment but it does raise questions about newsroom cultures and extreme competitiveness, either within the newsroom or with other publications. "One trend noticed about the fabricators is that they often worked alone, and sub-editors and others were discouraged from changing or questioning their copy. Some US newspapers have also found staff believe they are under too much pressure to pro- duce good stories constantly, ac- cording to the American Journal- ism Review. "It has been argued by some that plagiarism or fabrication were an inevitable result of such pressure. That too, is an unacceptable ar- gument but it is something those in control of newsrooms need to consider." The response of New Zealand's two major newspaper publishers to this very serious breach of jour- nalism ethics ... was "heartening," said the Press Council. "Both were swift to initiate substantial inquiries; both were prepared to take on the chin the embarrassment of revealing to their readers a story of ongoing deception on the part of a senior journalist. "Modern technology might now be making it almost inevitable that plagiarists will be found out, but this episode of fabrication is a powerful reminder of the need for checks and balances to be built into newsroom processes. Sadly, it seems, trust is no longer enough." Where does the truth begin?